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Between Lawal Daura And Nigeria’s Endangered Democracy

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The acting president, Prof Yemi Osibajo, yesterday sacked the director-general of the Department of State Services (DSS), Lawal Musa Daura, following of invasion of the National Assembly by DSS operatives. TOPE FAYEHUN writes on his activities as former DSS boss.

Lawal Musa Daura was appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari on July 2, 2015 as the DSS boss to replace Mr Ita Ekpeyong.

Daura, who hails from Daura, the hometown of the president in Katsina State, was fired yesterday by the acting president in an unexpectedly twist to the siege on the National Assembly by DSS operatives.

Daura’s problems as DSS DG did not start yesterday. His appointment was criticised by various groups across the country over what they described as lopsided appointments of heads of the various security agencies in the country, particularly  as he hails from  Buhari’s hometown.

Also to condemn his appointment was PDP, the main opposition party in the country,  which accused Daura of being an APC member, arguing that he would not be fair to all political parties. The party also flayed the pattern of appointments by the president, saying it did not reflect federal character and the diverse nature of the country.

On Daura’s watch , the DSS and the anti-graft agency, the EFCC, have been at engaged in a supremacy battle, leading to a letter written by DSS to the Senate to stop the confirmation of Magu as EFCC chairman.

Interestingly, the DSS under him submitted two contradictory reports, one approving Magu’s confirmation and the other asking that he be rejected for failing an integrity test. The Senate happily chose the latter.

During his screening on March 25, 2016, the acting EFCC boss looked to be course for confirmation when Senator Dino Melaye revealed that the Senate had received a letter from the DSS saying Magu was not qualified for the job.

That letter was no small  embarrassment to the president as it gave the impression that there was division within the Presidency. The two agencies report directly to the president.

The conflict between the two security agencies reached a head when operatives of the DSS foiled the arrest of its former director-general, Mr. Ita Ekpenyong, by personnel of the EFCC.

The  EFCC operatives, armed with search and arrest warrants, had reportedly laid a siege to Ekpenyong’s residence in Abuja  in an early-morning operation, intent on picking him up for questioning regarding  the money which DSS allegedly collected from the office of the former National Security Adviser (NSA), Colonel Sambo Dasuki (retd), shortly before the 2015 general election.

But they were turned back by the DSS operatives attached to Ekpenyong, who reportedly called for reinforcement from the DSS headquarters.

Following the unsavoury developments, the Senate  set up an ad-hoc committee to investigate the matter.

The lawmakers described the clashes between the EFCC and DSS operatives as a big embarrassment to the nation. They opined that since the EFCC operatives had in their possession  validly obtained search and arrest warrants, the DSS’ action in impeding the exercise of their constitutional mandate was nothing but an affront on the laws of the land.

The Senate at the time chided and reminded the DSS that their immediate past helmsmen were not superior to the laws of the land.

“The former DSS boss held office through the instrumentality of the laws of the land and it would be quite strange if, now that he is out of office, the law has suddenly become expendable. The deployment of armed operatives to foil the arrest of Ekpenyong and Oke portrays the DSS as a lawless organisation, and it does not matter if the agencies hold a contrary view,” the Senate said.

Ambassador  Ayodele Oke is a former DG of a sister intelligence agency, the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), who was removed from office  following the scandal generated by the $44 million recovered from an Ikoyi residence belonging to the NIA.

One another occasion, at dead of the night, armed DSS operatives raided the residences of senior judges in Abuja, Port Harcourt and Gombe states, breaking doors and threatening to harm their family members and aides.

The judges affected are of the Supreme Court and Federal High Court. Two of the judges were said to have recently ruled against the DSS and condemned its disregard of the laws of the land during its operations.

Justices Sylvester Ngwuta and John Okoro; the suspended Presiding Justice of the Court of Appeal, Ilorin Division, Justice Mohammed Tsamiya; a judge of the Kano State High Court, Justice Kabiru Auta, and Justice Adeniyi Ademola of the Federal High Court, Abuja, were arrested by the operatives of the DSS. 

Others also whisked away were former Chief Judge of Enugu State, Justice I. A. Umezulike; Justice Muazu Pindiga of the Federal High Court, Gombe Division and Justice Ademola.

This action drew a lot of anger and condemnation from Nigerians and foreigners alike, with many describing the raid as a threat to democracy and reminiscent of the executive lawlessness and human rights abuses that characterised the nation’s military era, including President Muhammadu Buhari period as military dictator.

it was gathered then that DSS agents spent time breaking down the gate of Justice Dimgba’s house with a sledgehammer before beating his brother to pulp when they could not find him. At this time, Justices Ademola & Pindiga had been arrested and clamped in detention.

Because of the DSS  raids, discerning members of the public pointed to a long list of actions that showed that the Buhari administration had no respect for the rule of law and the principle of separation of powers, adding that it was only interested in using the apparatus of state to harass real and perceived enemies.

The men of the agency also raided the Presidential Lodge in the official residence of the Akwa Ibom State Governor, Udom Emmanuel.

Before Daura was relieved of his job yesterday, he was accused of being partisan by different political organisations in the country . He was the first DSS boss that failed to have a spokesman throughout his tenure, unlike what obtained under his predecessors. Journalists always found it difficult to access him for information whenever the need arose.

Many analysts had observed that Daura was one of the security chiefs whose actions had embarrassed the president the most.

Not long ago, many accused him of  brazenly recruiting people from the North, especially from Katsina, his home state, into the service without regard to national feeling and federal character, to the detriment of other states.

Although, the Presidency came to his defence by saying that the recruitment was to correct some imbalance in the department, there was no proof to support such claim.

Giving explanation for Daura’s removal yesterday, the acting president, Professor Osinbajo said the move following his act of laying siege to the National Assembly breached national security and undermined democracy in the country.

Osinbajo subsequently directed the termination of his appointment with immediate effect.

LEADERSHIP learnt that Daura was summoned to the presidential villa by the acting president few minutes before his sack, and was directed to hand over to the most senior officer of the DSS, one Matthew Seiyefa, until further notice.

Reacting to his sack, many Nigerians believe that it was long overdue, adding that he took the acting president for granted in sending his men to the National Assembly without the consent of the acting president.

Observers said this is the very first time the present administration under President Muhammadu Buhari will be sacking a top security official following public outcry over their excesses or incompetence.

Before yesterday, Daura was one of the top government appointees Nigerians believed were untouchable because of their closeness to the president.

However, the swift way in which he was  fired should serve as a wake-up call on other top officials of this administration who seems to take delight in  acting above the law.

The rush by the Nigeria police to release a statement yesterday  saying its men were not part of the National Assembly siege seems to show that the message got across. 



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